Morning, Parked Beside a Scene from The Inferno
James Owens

The slate dump breathes hell and rotten eggs,
unfinished as lust, little twirls of smoke

from some fire in its guts the spring rain
can’t reach, that twist and thin as they rise

through the last panels of chill darkness,
breath forgetting the body of rock and slag.

He finds himself here again, unsurprised,
a half-mile down the swerving road from his bed

where the window’s rainy daylight wakes alone.
Forms hulk and blur in this dawn of slow drizzle,

and he is drawn helplessly to this final landscape,
as if the acres of smoldering cinder, the hopeless slough

of black mire where a creek sickened on runoff,
the broken, rusting machinery cast away here,

answer some stripped hillside in him that he must climb.
The world is a far, bright circle of sun behind wet cloud.

The men in the trucks go past without smiling,
mouths set on the day’s work, or turning to cough loss

into the slanting rain, faces gray from their war
with money, bloodstains like slashes on handkerchiefs.

Morning blackens in his mouth. The roar
of heavy traffic shudders up through the steering wheel,

coal dust and sulfur ash thick in the wiper swathes,
thick in the throat, sifting soft in the lungs.

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